Representatives of the newly created Canadian union Unifor appeared before the Ontario panel studying minimum wages in the province today, and called for the minimum wage to be increased to $14 per hour.
The presentation was made by Jim Stanford and Jordan Brennan, both economists working in Unifor’s Research Department.
The Unifor submission pointed out that the current minimum wage ($10.25 per hour) has been frozen for three-and-a-half years, during which time its real purchasing power has eroded by over 7 per cent (compared to average consumer prices in the province).
“It is terribly unfair that Ontario’s lowest-income workers have experienced such a significant reduction in their real wages, at a time when working families need every penny,” said Stanford.
The Unifor submission also endorsed the concept of a “living wage,” which is a wage sufficient to allow a family of four, with two wage-earners, to pay for the basic necessities of family life. Studies have estimated the living wage in Ontario to be around $18 per hour, and so increasing the statutory minimum to $14 must be only the first step of a broader strategy required to ensure all Ontario workers can enjoy decent living standards.
The union’s submission reviewed economic evidence regarding the link between minimum wages and employment levels, and concluded that a higher minimum wage would not have any negative impact on employment. In fact, by boosting purchasing power and consumer spending, and helping lower-income families reduce their debt loads, a higher minimum wage could actually have a net positive impact on jobs.